1994: Dodge/ Plymouth Neon
“Emblazoned with either a Dodge ram’s head on the hood or a new Plymouth badge depending on what showroom it graces, the Neon is the car we have been waiting for Detroit to build. It’s the car we thought Saturn would build but didn’t. The Neon is a small car with big room and an even bigger heart. Its less-than-$10,000 price is right, its looks are eye-catching, and it’s a lead-pipe cinch to boost showroom traffic across the land.
“It has become clear that you don’t build boring cars for guys like Bob Lutz and chief engineer Francois Castaing. Several members of the Neon team have racing experience, and they put it to work to imbue the Neon with a surprising level of driving fun. The Neon’s primary controls are first-rate for an economy car. The five-speed is so good that Chrysler believes sales could double the usual 25 percent of the mix. We were most impressed with the Neon’s razor-sharp steering and instant turn-in. Engineers attribute much of their success to developing an exceptionally stiff steering column and to use the magnesium in the steering wheel rim to bring weight down and quiet vibration.
“Chrysler’s strategy – building cars that people want cheaply and quickly – has turned the industry, both domestic and foreign, on its ear. At the rate Chrysler is going, the swift just might eat the large.”